Friday, February 25, 2011

Women Health Concerns: pondering on attacks on the Patient’s Protection and Affordable Care Act in 112th Congress?

Keywords or Terms: Women Health; Union Bursting; State Budgets; Repeal of PPACA; Consumer Protection; Ombudsmen Offices

It is often attacks from States Houses like those in Wisconsin, New Jersey and Ohio that often bring about unintended changes. Hard times often have an unintended consequence. The brazen affront on Public Employees Union in some State Houses is not just incidental. The Republican governors spear heading the affront on Public Employees Unions in Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, and probably other states, are probably working toward a goal grandiose than just fixing State budgets or deficit. Imagine that after the Wisconsin Public Employee Unions have accommodated rollbacks in their wages, benefits and costs of living adjustments, Wisconsin Governor Walker still wants to decapitate the Public Employee Union(s) in that State.

What is now known or what will remain circumstantial, is the suspicion that the Republicans in State Executive Offices and lawmakers at Capitol Hill are working towards making all state budgets and hopefully federal budget leaner in the coming budget cycles. The strongest and probably greatest impact of this effort will be felt in State Health Care Budgets, since the care of states' residents continues to be huge portion in some states' budgets, when compared with other line items. Many State governors have already embarked on cutting budgets to the bare bone. And, it’s the immediate pain of cutting deep into State budgets, coupled with union busting efforts in some State Capitols by some Republican governors, that may end up steam roll many aspect of State budgets allocated to state’s portion of Medicare; and, eventually adversely impact and become a grave problem to vulnerable groups like women, children and the elderly.

Due to the complex nature of the politicking going on in Wisconsin and Ohio and the challenges of ensuring a balanced budget, the blog tonight will like to wait until the storms die down before coming to explore the nature of the beast regarding what Republicans and their governors in some State Houses are up to with regard to their current initiative to bring about balanced budgets in many state capitals. Tonight, we will like to look at some bills moving around the United States Congress, especially those that may delve a blow to women’s health in the current machination against the Patient’s Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.


The 906-page legislative wonder of 2010 continues to be a difficult document for many Republicans to accept and some provisions in the law seem puzzling to many lawmakers bent on de-funding the law. When the act was signed into law on March 23, 2010, it was to the chagrin of Republican lawmakers who swore to repeal it. Since the inauguration of the 112th congress, Republicans in the House have repealed the law and found they could not do better, as the Democrats in the United States Senate promised that the repealed bill is dead on arrival. While Republicans continue to work vociferously to do anything to undermine the law, their new efforts at chipping away at the law continue to bemuse many Democrats who see the law as the most golden opportunity to reform America’s health care system and are glad to be part of once in a life time experience.

Republicans will sarcastically refer to the law as ‘Obamacare’ just to undermine its flavor to the American Public. The Democrats see the law as what it is: A Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; a law that has a human face when it comes to talking about care for Americans, especially the most vulnerable among us, women, children and the elderly. Recently, Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill introduced many bills to undermine the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, specifically targeting a woman’s right to a healthy body when it comes to the question of abortion. Here again are the concerns of many women who consider Republican’s effort to undermine the provisions of this law as an affront to their civil right, especially, when the issue of the right to abortion and the funding of abortion under the Patient’s Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R 3590), are raised.

Bills working their way through the 112th Congress that may jeopardize Women Health:

In an effort to bastardize and or confront the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Republicans have introduced the following bills in congress, which have some ramification for women health:

H.R. 105 Dan Burton, GOP – Indiana : To repeal the Patient Protection Act & enact in its place incentives for people to buy health insurance;
H.R. 118 John Fleming, GOP – Louisiana : To permit a state to elect not to have an American Health Care Exchange;
H.R. 119 John Fleming, GOP – Louisiana : To prohibit hiring of Internal Revenue Service agent to implement or enforce health insurance reform;
H.R. 127 John Graves, GOP – Georgia : To de-authorize funding of Patient Protection Act;
H.R. 141 Steve King, GOP – Iowa : To repeal the Patient Protection Act;
H.R. 145 Connie Mack, GOP – Florida : To repeal the Patient Protection Act;
H.R. 154 Ted Poe, GOP Texas : To prohibit any federal funds to be used to enforce Patient Protection Act;
H.R. 171 Cliff Stearns, GOP – Florida;
H.R. 2 Eric Cantor, GOP – Virginia : Repeal of Patient Protection Act;
H.R. 38 John Fleming, GOP – Louisiana : Rescind funds authorized for Patient Protection Act;
H.R. 9 David Drier, GOP – California : Requires Committees to look into Patient Protection Act;
H.R. 26 David Drier, GOP – California : Repeal Patient Protection Act;
H.R. 215 Don Young, GOP – Alaska : Repeal Patient Protection Act;
H.R. 19 John Carter, GOP – Texas : Disapprove rules on MLR in Patient Protection Act;
H.R. 299 John Carter, GOP – Texas : Repeal Patient Protection Act;
H.R. 358 Joe Pitts, GOP – Penn : Remove abortion funding from Patient Protection Act (there is none);
H.R. 360 Michael Burgess – Texas : Amend Patient Protection Act to include President in Health Care Exchanges;
H.R. 364 Tom Latham, GOP – Iowa : To Repeal Patient Protection Act;
H.R. 371 Marsha Blackburn, GOP – Tennessee : Repeal Title I of Patient Protection Act;
H.R. 5 Phil Gingrey, GOP – Georgia : Repeal Patient Protection Act;
H.R. 397 Wally Herger, GOP – California :Repeal Patient Protection Act;
H.R. 429 Darrell Issa, GOP, California – Repeal Patient Protection Act;
H.R. 452 Phil Roe, GOP, Tennessee – A bill to repeal Patient Protection Act;
H.R. 450 Dave Reichert, GOP, Washington – A bill to repeal Patient Protection Act.

S. 19 Orrin Hatch, GOP – Repeal Health Mandate & therefore repeal patient protections;
S. 17 Orrin Hatch, GOP – Repeal Tax on Medical Devices;
S. 16 David Vitter, GOP – Repeal Patient Protection Act;
S. 196 Chuck Grassley, GOP, Iowa – A bill to to provide congressional staff gets to participate in Exchange; and,
S. 192 Jim DeMint, GOP, South Carolina – A bill to repeal health care

Some of these bills are either frivolous or done to demean the essence of the reform badly needed in America’s Health Care System, before the advent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. All of the bills, sponsored or co-sponsored by Republican lawmakers, were introduced with malice; which consequentially make them mindless to a sane mind in general and merit-less, in specific. When signed into law last March, some provisions of the law were considered controversial by some interest groups and organizations; however, many Americans wonder why Republicans are not making effort to improve the law rather than working to repeal it. For this reason, these Americans consider the current Republicans shenanigans as either malicious or backward in thinking.

Further, many women groups and health organizations contemplate that the vigorous effort to repeal the law in the house has the potential of creating some challenges for women health. Imagine the current acrimony over whether a privately funded health insurance policy purchase on the impending health care insurance exchange is a viable provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act? How would you interpret sponsored House Bill 358 by Republican Representative Joe Pitts from Pennsylvania, seeking to remove abortion funding from the act? It is obvious from reading the provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that there is no funding for abortion; yet, the honorable gentleman from Pennsylvania is seeking to defund abortion with H.R. 358. Notwithstanding that a bill like this stands no chance, the implication of having a lawmaker introduce a bill that will call to question all the potential advantage to women’s health from the act, make some concerned women groups ponder, if Republicans are not out to derail their progress on the status of women’s health and civil rights.

While many women groups believe that when provisions of the act begins to bear fruits, some skeptics may turn around to the tremendous benefits of the act, they still ponder if Republican governors, who under the cloak of attempting to balance their state’s budget, want to dabble into short changing their state’s contribution to Medicare costs. It is known that funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care (PPACA) Law was craftily designed under mandatory spending in the federal government budget by Democrats who did most of the leg walk to pass the act; however, nothing prevents a state’s governor who hardly cherishes the provisions of the law from short changing his or her State’s portion of Medicare contribution.

Worse still, how about some State governors, out of the need to balance their budgets, may want to divert funds meant for the State’s ombudsman offices and CAPs (Section 1002) into other uses. Unless specific guidelines are associated with the use of the grants when dispensed to the state for this particular purpose, nothing stands in the way of a governor from diverting the fund meant for say, the ombudsmen offices. There is nothing right now that prevents a mischievous governor from diverting this grant for other uses or purposes at the State level. Unless some accurate and specific language is attached to how funds going to the state’s ombudsmen offices operation, it may well be difficult to hold state government from serving their preferences rather than this essential part of the Patient’s Protection and Affordable Care Act.

I have heard suggestions regarding how to protect the vulnerable groups among us, especially women, with respect to the creation and running of the ombudsmen offices in each state of the federation; including, having the office made independent and free of states’ politics and interventions; requiring states to commit to helping consumers navigate the avalanche of information regarding the new health care reform law; ensuring that the consumer support office is supplemented with culturally and linguistically competent professionals who are ready to provide information support to working and vulnerable groups; and, mandating that all states and counties have a health consumer assistance program that supplement the federal grants. Unless this is done, women would likely have issues to deal with, especially in states where their Republican governors and attorney generals are working daily to undermine the provisions of the Patient’s Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Communicating the essence of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is not too late. During the debate over the introduction of the law, it was difficult to convince Republicans to be part of the process. As they continue in their wanton repeal efforts, it is not too late to help them overcome the hump or learning curve by educating them further about what the law is doing even for their wives, children and parents, especially when they actually have not provided an alternative to the law and all they are driving at is repealing the law. It is hard to be humble when you are perfect in every way, goes that old song; maybe, we may want to help Republicans sing along! Republicans must now desist from serving only the interests of those who are going to line their pockets with money and consider the welfare of all those beautiful women in America who continue to work hard that we as a nation, do not go into extinction!

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